|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||The Religious Situation in France|
Zht Religious Situation in Trance. More Observations of An English Catholic Tourist-Free Masonry Blamed for Religious Decadence of France The Clergy Took No Part in Any AJovement for the Social Betterment of the People. (Cor. Liverpool Catholic Times.) The decadence of religion in France is strikingly brought home to us, not only by the universal neglect of Holy Mass on Sundays, but also by the desuetude de-suetude into which the Sacraments have fallen among the overwhelming bulk of the population. It is impossible impossi-ble to obtain exact statistics on either of these heads. No parochial or diocesan dio-cesan inquiries as to attendance at mass or frequentation of the Sacraments Sacra-ments seem to be made, the clergy, perhaps, considering such an investigation investi-gation as profitless, or dreading the results re-sults which, they are aware, an inquiry of the kind would certainly reveal. Here and there some zealous priests have endeavored to get at least a rough idea I of the religious status of their parishes, and the facts which their investigations investiga-tions disclosed throw a painful light cn the subject with which I am dealing. Let me cite some of these facts, from an article by Pere Forbes that ap-, peared a few months ago in the "Etudes," the Paris periodical edited by the' Jesuit fathers. Speaking of Paris, he says that the proportion of children not baptised is 25 per cent, and that for every 100 interments there are 24 or 25 "civil" burials, that is, burials unaccompanied by any religious rites. And in certain quarters of the city matters are much worse, the number num-ber of Non-baptized Children reaching as high as 65 per cent, whilst the number of First Communions is only 200, where formerly, and not long ago, it was 700. "We have at present," pres-ent," he writes, "or we shall soon have in Paris, some 700,000 inhabitants, the quarter of the total population, living outside the church, and either indifferent indif-ferent or hostile to her a pagan city alongside a Christian city." Nor must Paris be regarded as an exception; in other large centers a similar state of things is found to prevail. At Limoges, Lim-oges, an episcopal city with u. population popula-tion of about 70,000, a zealous priest who made an enquiry extending; over seven years discovered that , 18,000 o the inhabitants, persons-of the working classes, had not received baptism; and so fanatical were those unfortunate people that some pious women, whom he had enrolled for the purpose of bap-' tizing children in danger of death, were cruelly beaten for having administered the Sacrament. Only a short time since the cure of the cathedral parish at Bourges found that in one small district dis-trict there were no fewer than 500 children chil-dren who had not been baptized. In another town, Troyes, where there is an association of young Catholic girls of the humbler class, a missionary priest ascertained that more than half of these children were unbaptized. What surprises would be in store for us, pathetically adds Pere Forbes, if we were to get exact figures on this head for other places. As with the baptisms, so with the Paschal Communions. Com-munions. Even in some of the best cities the Number of Easter Communions is lamentably small. At uesoncon, for example, it is only 1.500 out of a population popu-lation of 55,000, and Besancon is an archepiscopal city. Compare this with what may be seen elsewhere. In Westphalia the proportion is 85 per cent, and in Poland, even In the cities, it is as high as 95 per cent. In a very large number of French towns of 10,000 or 15,000 inhabitants, there are not, the Jesuit writer tells us, one hundred men who approach the Sacraments at Easter, Eas-ter, and yet in this respect the towns are better than the rural districts. As illustrating what may be observed in most of the villages, I was told of one place where but three men performed their Easter duty; of the three, one was the sacristan, and another the chanter in the parish church. Also instructive in-structive is the story I heard of a priest who wished to engage a manservant. man-servant. A candidate for the post presented pre-sented himself, was satisfied, with the terms offered, and was ready to accept the place on the condition, however, that he should not be obliged to make his Paschal Communion. That these figures and" facts but represent what may be found in most parts of France will not be questioned by anyone familiar fami-liar with the religious situation. And that I do not exaggerate the gravity of the evil may be inferred from the following remarks of Pere Forbes: "An immense number ot men," he says, "who call themselves Catholics, live outside the church, away from her Sacraments, Sac-raments, are regardless of her laws and her liturgy, Never Hear the Word of God. and vote at the elections against the church that has baptized them, against the church their mother, and either work for her destruction or make up their minds to allow others to affect her ruin." A type of this numerous class was a Frenchman in an English town, whose wife being asked by a Jesuit Father whether her husband was a Catholic, unhesitatingly replied, "Oui, mon Pere, mon mari est bon Catholique, mais 11 ne pratique pas." Is not the truth of the Jesuit writer's statement amply confirmed by the attitude at-titude of the mass of French Catholics at the present moment? Everywhere throughout the country Catholic schools are being closed by decrees of questionable ques-tionable legality, private rights are set at naught, thousands of nunsjexpelled from their homes, often under'circum- I stances of great brutality: and yet, save in Brittany and Savoy, the men of France look on with absolute indifference indif-ference and stir not a finger to prevent so criminal an outrage on religious liberty, lib-erty, leaving it to helpless women to manifest their sympathy and regard for the victims of the odious and iniquitous in-iquitous law which disgraces the statute stat-ute book of the republic. Describing his countrymen, an excellent priest remarked re-marked to me, "On the battlefield Frenchmen are brave; in all the other relations of life they are the veriest poltroons." It looks as if the comment were but too true. I happened to pass through a large town in the north on the day the "Dames de la Sainte Union" were expelled from their convent and schools. Not the least agitation was visible among the male population, and if the mothers of the children educated by the good nuns had not made a demonstration dem-onstration the event would have passed off without notice. In conversation with my hotel proprietor, the brother ""'' , -1 I - t ,' . ; - " " - ' -' " T f ,..." j:;- : -' ' ' ' - ' j l 1 - ;; ' :i L : : j; J MRS. THOMAS KEABNS. of a Cure, I learned that, what most disturbed people was The Material Loss, that would result to the town from the closure of the boarding school, an establishment es-tablishment by which traders and others oth-ers benefited to the extent of at least 15,000 a year. Of the grievous wrong or the cruel hardships to which the sisters sis-ters had been subjected, of the outrage to Catholic sentiment, of the loss, from a religious point of view, to the children chil-dren attending the schools, nobody seemed to make any account. To what, it may be asked, are we to ascribe the present unhappy condition of the church in France? The venerable Cure-doyen Cure-doyen of a populous parish in one of the large towns, to whom I put the same query, replied: "Ah. you ask me a question which it would need a volume vol-ume fully to. answer." The causes of the evil are in truth manifold. I can only indicate some of them. On all I sides you hear Freemasonry denounced as the arch-enemy. In the opinion of laymen, as well as of clerics. Freemasonry Freema-sonry is the sworn foe not only of Catholicity, but even of Christianity, and the campaign which the sect has carried on with feverish energy and? diabolical astuteness against the church has robbed her of her influence with the people and reduced her to servitude to the state. In the lodges have been, shaped and perfected allthe measures which, within the last twenty-five years have been devised for the ruin of religion. re-ligion. Nor have the Freemasons made any secret of the objects they pursue. They have repeatedly stated in their assemblies and in their journals that the church must be crushed, religion banished from public instruction, that Catholics should be denied the most olpmcntflrv rif'hts Thn ap-ain The Infidel Press, has poisoned the minds of millions with the bitterest prejudices against the church, has undermined faith, and, besides be-sides sapping the foundations of belief, has largely contributed to the widespread wide-spread demoralization from which the nation is suffering. Blame is cast also on the Jews. We know of the violence of the anti-Semitic agitation. Those who are unacquainted with the secret springs of the anti-Christian movement in France are sometimes surprised that the Catholics of that country should exhibit so much hostility towards the Jews. If the Jews are intensely unpopular, unpop-ular, it is- not on the score of their religion re-ligion they are disliked, but because they have actively supported the designs de-signs of the worst enemies of the church. Their political, their social, and their financial influence is at tha service of the Masonic fraternity. But all the blame does not rest at the door of the Jews, Freemasons, or the wicked press. Not the least of the causes that have led to the decay of religious life in the rural districts and amongst the tollers of the towns and-citles is the aloofness inwhich the clergy have stood with regard to any movement for the betterment of the masses. They kept to the sacristy, they did not go to the people. Content with the routipe discharge dis-charge of their ministerial functions, they took no practical interest in the material welfare of, the humbler classes; they failed to make themselves . the guides, the counsellors, the confidants confi-dants of their flocks. Neither the peasant peas-ant nor the artisan found in his pastor an, advocate of his claims or a champion cham-pion for the defense of his social rights. Had the priest adopted a more sympathetic sympa-thetic attitude, had he entered heartily into The Social Movement, as his brethren in Belgium and Ger many have done, he might have gathered gath-ered the people about him and won their esteem and affection. At least he would not have exposed himself to the reproach of being indifferent to the material ma-terial well-being of the poorer classes of the community. By working for social so-cial ends he would have advanced religious re-ligious interests. The socialist propagandist propa-gandist came on the ground, usurped his place, and soon won over the common com-mon people to his enticing theories, inspiring in-spiring them later on with disgust or contempt for religion and everything pertaining to it. When it was too late the clergy saw what a splendid opportunity oppor-tunity they had lost an opportunity that does not seem likely to return. Within the past few years zealous and energetic priests, abreast of their times, haye here and there eagerly thrown themselves into social work, but, as it is practically impossible for them now to exert any influence on the men, their efforts are almost exclusively devoted de-voted to the preservation of the young. There is one feature in the organization organiza-tion of the church of France which all reflecting French Catholics regard with profound dissatisfaction; I allude to the state nomination of bishops. I found no difference of opinion among priests or laymen on this point; both were equally emphatic in their condemnation con-demnation of the system. The inconveniencesnay, incon-veniencesnay, the evils that necessarily neces-sarily result from such a mode of appointment ap-pointment to the highest offices in the ecclesiastical government are only too obvious. As the late archbishop of Aix once expressed it, France is living un-i un-i der Freemasonry, not under .a republic; 1 eight out of the twelve ministers in the present cabinet are Masons. What, j then, can be expected of a hierarchy i most of whose members owe their nomination to one or other of the Masonic Ma-sonic governments that have succes--sively ruled the republic during the last twenty-five years? It would be idle to imagine that it was the welfare of the church or the good of religion these governments consulted when making appointments to episcopal sees. Their choice will not have fallen on ecclesiastics distinguished by their piety, their learning, or their sacredotal virtues; they have selected priests who they knew or expected would be. Their Humble Servants. who by their pliancy and submissive-ness submissive-ness would lighten the task of the persecutors per-secutors of the church. I have been told on excellent authority of a Nuncio who, leaving Paris almost brokenhearted broken-hearted after a stay of several years, sadly confessed, in this connection, that all his efforts had been directed, when vacancies occurred, to securing the appointment ap-pointment for the least unworthy amongst the candidates presented by the government! A distinguished ecclesiastic ec-clesiastic with whom I discussed this subject j)ut the case pithily and forcibly: forci-bly: "It is," he remarked, "as if the Prussians had the appointment of the generals of our army." A learned and active parish priest in another town, speaking of the necessity in the present crisis of a uniform line of conduct to be followed throughout all the dioceses where schools are being closed, and lamenting la-menting the total absence of ecclesiastical ecclesias-tical guidance and direction, made the observation, "France has bishops, but no episcopate." He briefly summed up his estimate of the French prelates by (not too respectfully) calling them chiens couchants, a qualification which, I must say, met with the approval of others of his order. In presence of dangers so great, of opponents so formidable, form-idable, What Are Catholics of France Doing, to raise religion from its fallen state, ! or save the church from the perila to ; which she is at present exposed? No satisfactory answer can be given. Instead In-stead of rallying to one powerful organization or-ganization for the defense of their highest and holiest interests, they range themselves in opposing camps; they are torn by dissensions, broken up into factions to which the good of religion and the well-being of the church are of less consideration than the pursuit of an impossible political ideal. Even amongst the bishops and lower clergy there are many to whom the pontifical directions are distasteful, who make no secret of their dissatisfaction dissatis-faction at the pope's interference in the affairs of the republic. Had the Catholics of Franoe but loyally followed the guidance of the Holy Father, had they placed religious interests above political preference, they might have become a force in the country and in the chambers which no government could afford to despise. Their failure in this respect is one other proof that their Catholicism is. in too many cases, little better than nominal. It may be thought that the account I have given of the state of religion amongst our French neighbors is too pessimistic, cr that it applies only to certain limited areas. I would it were so. But, if anything, any-thing, I have Understated the Case. There are other facts I might adduce i which would go to shov that the con- dition of things is even more distress- ing than I have described it. I have f simply set down what I have seen and what I have heard. My informants be- I ing persons who spoke of what they I knew, and who were, from their office and position, excellently qualified" i give a sound opinion upon the situa- I tion. That there are sterling Catholics j in France, men eminent for their piety, their zeal, their devotion to the church, I cannot, of course, be denied, but what i are they among so many a mere rem- nant of the nation; the great bulk, the overwhelming majority of the male j population are either indifferent or alien, or avowedly hostile to religion. What boots it, then, to persist in calling call-ing France a Catholic country? There is. however, one bright spot in the out- j look. Amongst the cultured classes there is a stirring of the dry bones. Men of light and leading, like Brune-tiere, Brune-tiere, Coppee, Huysmans and Bourget, not content with merely admiring Catholicism and proclaiming the beauties beau-ties of its morality, its organization, " and its charity, have frankly declared themselves Christians, and have cour- ageously come forward a3 the cham- j pions of the church. Their example i and Influence will, it may be hoped, contribute to the removal of religious f prejudices, and help to bring back ; many, even of the lower ranks, to the j faith they have lost.